The trouble in answering the question, “Are there ocelots in Texas?”, is that we don’t know for sure because even when you check with the most authoritative sources you get rather vague answers. The most authoritative source currently on the Internet as to the distribution of the ocelot and any wild cat species is the IUCN Red List. It is their job to remain up-to-date on this sort of information.
They state that the geographical range of the ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) starts in Mexico going south through Central and South America. They then qualify that by saying in 2002 the well-known wild cat authorities, Mel and Fiona Sundquist, in their book Wild Cats of the World, state that there is a small remnant population, “…north of the Rio Grande in the United States”. The estimated size of this population is 82-120 animals. But no mention of Texas. However, it is an indication that the ocelot may exist in very small numbers in the very southern most parts of the USA.
When you read the book I mentioned, Wild Cats of the World, the authors state that
“currently their distribution extends from southern Texas and the coastal lowlands of Mexico through Central America and into South America…”
Therefore in 2002 the best experts on the distribution of the wild cat species stated that the ocelot did exist in Texas. The big question is whether they still exist in that state and the answer is, we aren’t sure.
That’s a poor answer but it is a truthful one. Nobody has reported sightings of the ocelot to this website over the 8 years of the site’s existence but quite a few people have reported sightings of other wild cat species in that time, which supports the notion that the ocelot is no longer found in Texas.
It has been 12 years, after all, since the Sunquist’s book was published and there is a general decline in population sizes of small wild cat species such as the ocelot, so it is quite possible that it has been extirpated from Texas at the date of this post.
One last point. Texas Wildlife and Parks Department state:
“areas identified as occupied habitat are: Cameron, Duval, Hidalgo, Jim Wells, Kenedy, Kleberg, Live Oak, McMullen, Nueces, San Patricio, Starr, Willacy, and Zapata”.
So they are saying the ocelot is or could be in the southern counties of Texas. This is the map:
If anyone can add to the information please do so in a comment. It would be most welcome.
Update Feb 6th 2015: a comment below includes a link to a webpage which states that there are 47 ‘known wild ocelots in the United States’ – wildlife biologist Hilary Swarts. Sounds good. I don’t know how reliable a source Hilary is. So you can decide for yourselves if what she says is to be believed.
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